Look at Howard Tate Run, Run

Ever since the millenium rolled around it seems the music gods pick one old soul star from the ’60’s or ’70’s to resurrect each year. They come complete with accolades and shiny new albums sounding as much like their vintage selves as they possibly can.

Think about it: Since the millenium, Betty Wright has resurrected herself as a producer and songwriter for the young, nubile soul star Joss Stone, helping Stone out for her two albums to date. Al Green reunited with his old producer Willie Mitchell and put out two collections of songs sounding almost exactly like his best Hi Records work (one of which, I Can’t Stop, is a modern-day classic). Solomon Burke put out the almost-perfect album Don’t Give Up On Me a few years ago on Epitaph subsidiary Anti and got some of the best reviews of his career. Under-appreciated soulwoman Bettye Lavette has turned out a few fantastic albums (the latest and best of which also released on Anti) in the last couple of years which have garnered tons and tons of praise (which they completely deserve, by the way) and uber-obscure cult singer Howard Tate has re-appeared out of nowhere to reclaim his career. A career he vanished from in the mid-70’s.

Out of all of these re-appearances and resurrections, Tate has, by far, the more interesting story. In the ’60’s Tate had sung gospel and had a stint as vocalist for organist Bill Doggett before branching out on his own. Together with legendary producer/songwriter Jerry Ragovoy, Tate recorded some moderately successful singles and albums for Verve, Lloyd Price’s Turntable label and, finally Atlantic Records. By 1974, however, Tate had grown tired of his moderate success and simply vanished off of the face of the earth, at least as far as his musical career went.

Unlike enigmatic soulman Bill Withers who simply quit the biz and went back to carpentry when his hits dried up, Tate’s disappearance had to do with something more sinister than just a “retirement”. Tate’s problems had to do with substance abuse. For a long while, almost fifteen years, Tate was homeless, living on the streets, unrecognizable to the very public who had cheered him just a few years before. Thankfully, he eventually was helped, brought to a mission and straightened out his life. When he was rediscovered a few years back (by a soul DJ who got sick of people asking him what happened to Tate and decided to go and find him himself) Tate had turned his life around and was a counseler for the addicted.

Though Tate hadn’t sung in public for many years, he was soon reunited with Ragovoy for a new record that came out in 2003, the very good and aptly titled Rediscovered. Last year, Tate released one hell of a live record called Get It While You Can. Please search it out. It is one of the best live documents of a soul singer I have heard in years. Though it does lack a defining “go crazy crescendo”, it is very solid throughout and contains all of Tate’s hits like Look At Granny Run Run, Ain’t Nobody Home, Try A Little Bit Harder and Get It While You Can.

Redemption is always great to experience, whether it be your own or watching someone else who really deserves it get some. Howard Tate deserves all the accolades he can acquire in the time he has left (hopefully lots) and I hope he records a lot more and I hope you go out and try to hear some of his music because if you like classic soul, you’ll love Howard Tate. Check out his old stuff too. It’s hard to find but it’s all been reissued so just look for it.

Are you smart enough to Get It While You Can?

The Music Nerd knows……..

Encinitas

The hidden gem of old Surf Route 101

Long-gone venacular architecture, Surf Route 101, Encinitas, California

Moonlight Bay, Encinitas, California, 1960s

Yogananda’s Self-Realization Fellowship, opened in Encinitas during the early 1950s. Surfers saw this sitting above one of California’s greatest surfing locations and (in a primitive manner) dubbed the spot “Swami’s,” like, “hey, that’s where the swami’s go!” In 1963, the Beach Boys referenced this in “Surfin’ U.S.A.” when they sang “at Haggerty’s and Swami’s” . . .

The terrain surrounding Swami’s. The hills curve perfectly to create a beautiful, long ride on the waves.

Surf Route 101 became the title of the Gary Usher album for the Super Stocks, and, a different song by Jan & Dean (from their Drag City album) written by Jan Berry, Roger Christian, and Brian Wilson — featuring boss spoken interludes by Jill Gibson. Usher’s Surf Route 101 album includes a song called “Oceanside,” which is also nearby in San Diego County.

The Longboard Grotto is the only place you can purchase most of the independent Surf movies from the 1950s and 1960s discussed in the article “Cat on a Hot Foam Board” from Dumb Angel #4: All Summer Long. They definitely deserve a plug . . . it’s to your benefit; call (760) 634-1920 . . . or reach them at www.thelongboardgrotto.com

The La Paloma Theater is where the Crawdaddys used to go see The T.A.M.I. Show . . . it has operated as an underground theater for years.

An excellent Psychedelic boutique with lots of Mod gear exists today in the heart of Surf Route 101, Encinitas

Flashbacks has done a great job with the design of their store posters and logos . . . a definite point of interest (and where I bought that Waltah Clarke shirt seen on the 2004 Ear Candy website).

There are two outstanding Taco joints on Surf Route 101 in Encinitas. Karina’s stands out because they make their own fantastic sauce, the shredded beef is bitchen, and they havea nice, hard shell. They also own a refreshing fruit smoothie shack right next door . . . all home made. But, as Geetz Romo said on the How to Speak Hip album, “Juiceheads are the lowest, man.”

Juanitas Taco Shop is a bit more popular with the locals in Encinitas, and was featured on Huell Howser’s PBS television show California’s Gold. The sauce is in no way comparable to Karina’s, but, they make up for it with heavy doses of cheeze, lettuce, meat and a nice, crackly shell.

Superb coffeehouse Panakin is spacious, relaxed, and rests inside an old, wooden train station. Artist Mary Fleener, Folk singer Cindy Lee Berryhill, and author (plus ’60s editor of Crawdaddy! magazine) Paul Williams are some of Dumb Angel’s fave rave local residents in the Encinitas / Leucadia area.


Pre-Panakin still exists on Surf Route 101

We need more Cheese-cut architecture like this in the world.

This Modrian-logo booze shack sells a great, independent trail mix inside.

The ideal place for dry-cleaning your threads

Uh-oh . . . yes, it’s an irony-bored trailer park next to a ’70s salty sea dog-themed restaurant-bar . . . if you’re only here for the beer.

Lou’s has always been one of the best record shops in the San Diego area. This, too, can be found on old Surf Route 101, as well as some great health food restaurants, and some wonderfully-refurbished Motor Hotels on the North side of Encinitas (in Leucadia).

Without a doubt, Ducky Waddles is the most interesting book store / art gallery in the San Diego area.

Dumb Angel #4: All Summer Long will soon host an art show here featuring Mike Dormer (Hot Curl, Shrimpenstein!), Frank Holmes (the 1966 Smile album cover) plus John McCambridge and Jay Nelson of Mollusk Surf Shop in San Francisco (see January blog). Live Surf instrumentals will be provided by the Sand Devils, a San Diego combo who wow’d ’em this year at Tiki Oasis.

Art, architecture, Burlesque . . . u-name-it cool, Ducky Waddles can match any book joint in New York, San Francisco or L.A. for a groovy presentation and content . . . it’s that good.

— DOMENIC PRIORE


RECURRING BALBOA THEME

Dumb Angel is back with our fourth installment of Newport/Balboa coolness. This month, dig on some classic imagery from Corona Del Mar — a Modernist community that sits along a half-mile sandy beach framed by cliffs and a rock jetty to form the east entrance of Newport Harbor. Corona Del Mar is also a popular area for surfing and diving (see review below for Thump, a film about Corona Del Mar’s famous bodysurfing spot, the Wedge). Also, more recent finds from Balboa music venues like the Prison of Socrates and the Rendezvous Ballroom.

Just above Balboa Island lies the untouched 1950s Modern residential community of Corona Del Mar

Arial view of the vintage coastline settlement

The tides of Corona Del Mar roll in around a set of jagged rocks. This low-angle postcard suggests the Noir elements of the sea were captured perfectly with nautical blues numbers by the Stan Kenton Orchestra, such as “Taboo,” “Lamento Gitano,” and “Reed Rapture” (all recorded locally at the Rendezvous Ballroom between 1941-42).

More rugged Corona Del Mar terrain, 1960s; close enough to land’s end for teenage adventure

Overhead view of the popular public beach; the Balboa Jetty to the left is where civilization last saw Gilligan, the Skipper, Tina Louise and the rest of the castaways. The Wedge lies just to the other side of the Jetty.

Chillin’ by the groovy beach pads in Corona Del Mar, 1960s

A scene from an episode of Where The Action Is, shot in Corona Del Mar in 1965.

Thump is the only film I know of so far that is solely devoted to the Wedge, a famous bodysurfing spot in the Newport-Balboa-Corona Del Mar area, which Bruce Brown dubbed “The Dirty ol’ Wedge” in his 1965 indie-surf flick, The Endless Summer. But before you slide Thump into your DVD player, be sure to que up the grittiest LP of surf instrumental garage music you have in your collection. Try the Crossfires . . . no, better yet . . . the Original Surfaris. Yeah, okay . . . now grab that TV remote control, hit the “mute” button, drop the needle on your record player and press “play” on the DVD. Because here’s the bad news, folks . . . Thump is a near-nauseating compilation of whimpy punk-pop and heavy metal that sits behind some seriously mesmerizing footage of the Wedge. The most egregius section of this film — titled “Super-Size It!” — marries a set of amazing surfers riding perfect big waves to a backdrop of death metal music. Adding insult to injury, the title card suggests that a McDonald’s happy meal slogan best sums up the magic of the Wedge. Some of us know better than to swallow that pill. Don’t say I didn’t warn you . . . but also don’t be disuaded from buying Thump either. With a little imagination, you can make this footage work to your advantage. (Thump is available at the Balboa Pharmacy).


Mark 56 Records was best known for the 1966 Surf instrumental album Real Cool Hits by the Avengers VI (sponsored by Good Humor Ice Cream). The label released LPs for businesses who wanted to advertise via vinyl. L.A. grocery store Alpha Beta sponsored this ’40s nostalgia disc, with cheezy artwork namechecking Swing-era ballrooms of the Greater Los Angeles area. Balboa is represented by a prominent showing for the Rendezvous Ballroom, with the Balboa Beach Ballroom right above it. Also included are Huntington Beach’s Pavalon Ballroom, Anaheim’s Harmony Park Ballroom (like the Rendezvous, later a Dick Dale & his Del-Tones venue during the ’60s), The Hollywood Palladium, The Pasadena Civic Auditorium, The Glendale Civic Auditorium, The Biltmore Bowl and the Trianon . . . wait . . . where is the Palomar Ballroom? (“On Third and Vermont,” say the echos of Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa and Anita O’Day).

Fuck A Mighty Wind . . . dig Fink Records recording artist Susan Rennaker going it alone at the Prison of Socrates in Balboa. You can see her in the film Dirty Feet, playing one night only at Sponto Gallery in Venice on July 19, as the feature of Dumb Angel’s “Beatnik Beach” film event.

— BRIAN CHIDESTER


SURF CITY USA

One of our readers asked us about the recent national articles covering the controversy surrounding the “official” location of Surf City in Southern California. The naming convention had been the subject of a public squabble between Orange County’s Huntington Beach (where Dean Torrence of Jan & Dean resides) and the town of Santa Cruz to the north.

In the end, the town of Huntington Beach secured a federal trademark to use the phrase “SURF CITY USA” as a marketing slogan and money-making venture for Huntington Beach.

It’s a controversial subject . . . but in the end, it’s much ado about nothing. Huntington Beach (mentioned in the Jan & Dean song “Surf Route 101”) gets to use the phrase “SURF CITY USA” to help sell products and make money for the town, and for Dean Torrence and others connected with the #1 smash single by Jan & Dean from 1963.

Despite the controversy, it’s important for people to understand that it’s merely a marketing ploy, and that the song (by Jan Berry and Brian Wilson) was not written about Huntington Beach, or any other specific location in Southern California.

This means that the town of Santa Cruz can indeed continue to use the moniker “Surf City” in marketing its various establishments associated with the SoCal beach culture.

And it’s a safe bet that the town of Huntington Beach will not go after the beach towns on the East Coast which were incorporated as “Surf City” long before the 1960s, and long before the famous Jan & Dean song was written.

What’s in a name? . . . It just depends on where you live and who you know.

To read more about this issue, be sure to check our “Comments” section, linked at the end of this blog.

To learn more about our forthcoming Jan Berry / Jan & Dean tribute album, please visit our site on MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/jananddeantribute

— MARK A. MOORE

Return of the Son of Frank Words

    The first Friday of most every month throughout 1967 and into ’68, I was formally excused from school so that my mother could take me all the way into Toronto for orthodontic appointments.  As my due reward afterwards, I would be treated to a tasty french-fry-and-chocolate-milk lunch in the sumptuous Eaton’s Department Store cafeteria, then left for an hour alone in the adjacent Music Department while dear mom ran her errands elsewhere.

Gawd, I truly was deep in pre-teen heaven in there, believe you me:  Guitars – just like the one Tommy Smothers played on TV every week! – lining each wall, while right over there were more record albums gathered alphabetically together in one place than my wide young eyes had ever ever seen.  

But it was while methodically flipping through that “Misc. M” bin one innocent Friday in seach of the latest Monkees long-player that I came across an image which shook me to the very core of my hitherto safe, sound, Micky’n’Mike-loving spine:

A foreboding, dark purple sci-fi sky shot through with lightning bolts, beneath which were strewn an above-motley crew of comic-book cut-outs (some of whose eyes were obscured with sinister black bars!)  And in front of all that stood what appeared to be a group of bearded, ugly, definitely NON-Monkee-looking men wearing… wearing dresses and standing by a mess of rotten vegetables which for some reason spelled out the word “mothers.”

Subconsciously at least, I recognized this was sort of for some reason like the picture on front of my latest Beatle album.  But I also instinctively gathered something BAD was afoot.

So for the next several months, as if revisiting a decaying body rotting in the back woods or the scene of some other such crime, I’d patiently let Dr. Shanks, D.D.S. rip around my mouth, rush with Mom to scarf down some Eaton’s fast-food, then creep back towards those record racks to check if …IT… was still hidden there.  Why, one grave Friday I even showed the offending, but somehow alluring record jacket to my mother (who, immediately sensing things untoward indeed, said “put that down, Gary.  We’re going home.”)

 

Flash forward a couple’a years:  By now, my comparatively straight teeth and I were enrolled in the local high school, specializing in Fine Arts and pouring over my latest charcoal still-life when the most incredible music suddenly burst from the record player at the back of the room.  It was Eric Shelkey’s turn to bring vinyl in to accompany the day’s lesson y’see, and Eric, being by far the most freeeky, out-there student in all our Grade 9 Specialty Art class (I mean, the guy wore little round eyeglasses just like John Lennon, and his hair actually reached below his shirt collar!) certainly did not disappoint with his choice of music.  Yep, instead of the usual docile strains of Tommy Roe or, at “worst,” Blood Sweat and Tears, the room was this morning filled with fully- stereophonic snorks, wheezes, electronic noises (much like those the microphone made in the auditorium downstairs when it wasn’t working), and some creepy voice which kept whispering “Are you hung up?” over and over again. 

Understandably I suppose, just like my mother had back in Eaton’s music department, our hitherto pretty patient art instructor Mr. Pollard walked quickly to the back of the classroom, turned the volume all the way down, removed the offending twelve inches from the turntable, inserted it back in its sleeve, and told Eric he could pick his record up after class, thankyouverymuchnowpleasegetbacktoworkeveryone.  Of course, me being me, I made sure to follow Eric out into the hall afterwards to find out the name labelled in the middle of this wondrous, forbidden twelve inches.  Most obligingly indeed, but being careful to check both ways first to see if anyone was looking, he pulled the album slowly from his portfolio case.

AND THERE IT WAS.  That same diabolical image which had haunted my post- orthodontic Fridays all those years ago!  

Winking at me most conspiratorially, Eric invited me over to his place to listen to the entire record that day immediately after school.  I naturally saved up my allowance and bought my OWN copy a couple of months later, locked myself in my room, and it would be quite some time until I ever listened to Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones Ltd. — or anything else, for that matter – quite the same way ever again.  I couldn’t say it then, but I surely will now:

Thank you, Frank Zappa.

 

Caveat Emptor however:  In its initial digital incarnation alongside the very dynamite Lumpy Gravy, the Mothers’ masterful Money was subjected to hideous late-Eighties remixing and the replacing even of its magnificent original rhythm tracks!  But I’m assured the current CD version holds the exact same We’re Only In It For The Money I like to think shock ‘n’ awed not only my own, but unsuspecting classrooms the world over back in those once-swinging Sixties.  Grab your own copy today, please.

Still Searching for Bobby Charles

Just wanted to add a little more info about Bobby Charles that I forgot to put in yesterday’s blog.

If you are a fan of a newer artist by the name of Jack Johnson and have heard the soundtrack to the recent movie Curious George, there is a song by Johnson called “Upside Down” off of the soundtrack that is getting a lot of airplay right now. That song is very much like the style of Bobby Charles and reminds me of Charles’ song Small Town Talk off of his self-titled album on Bearsville I talked a little about yesterday. Charles’ album is hard to find but is well worth searching out. It is sublime.

It was exciting to hear the song by Johnson as I am surprised radio is interested in that type of sound. It’s very cool and after I get done listening to more of Charles’ music I may check out some of Johnson’s CDs.

That is all for today.

The Music Nerd knows…….

Searching for Bobby Charles

Though I see and understand the enormous benefits of the Internet, I have never liked using it to search for CDs to buy. I feel it’s too “easy” that way. I have always felt whatever music I have stumbled upon in a store (whether I have searched off and on for it for years or not) is somehow destined for me to find on that day, in that place. Sort of like the way some people (okay, maybe just me) will find a book on a bench or something and feel compelled to read it just because it is somehow there for YOU.

So, I guess the powers of the universe wanted me to listen to some Bobby Charles this weekend and I couldn’t be happier. I found the elusive songwriter’s self-released CD Last Train To Memphis in a used music store this past weekend and was excited as hell about it. I couldn’t wipe the smile off of my face and I am sure the confused clerk was only too happy to get my creepy ass out of the store.

First, a little info: Bobby Charles was a staff songwriter/recording artist for Chess Records and is the songwriter who gave the world songs like See You Later, Alligator and Small Town Talk as well as a host of other classics recorded by everyone from Bill Haley to Delbert McClinton. As a performer, he struggled, not getting anywhere despite constantly touring for his ’50’s and ’60’s Chess singles. He ended up being taken to school a bunch of times: being cheated out of song royalties, having a then-prominent indie label stolen from him (He helped form Jewel/Paula records after leaving Chess), and was just generally being mismanaged. He wound up near Woodstock NY in the early ’70’s and ended up cutting a almost-perfect self-titled record for Bearsville with members of the Band which sadly ended up getting neglected after management problems developed between Charles and Albert Grossman. The follow-up, an even better record (and if you hear how good the self-titled one is, you’d have a hard time believing anything could better it) was never released.

Since then, Charles has recorded sporadically, content to live on the Gulf Coast and write songs whenever the spirit moves him. Every once in a while, he emerges from the shadows to give the world a taste of what it could have had on a regular basis if only the world would have cared back when Charles did. The album I picked up this weekend is a 2 CD special edition of an album he released back in 2003 on his own label, Rice N’ Gravy records. It is pretty much a compilation of tracks he’s recorded over the years in various studios, with various people. The star power on here is a testament to how many music legends love Charles’ songs. People like Willie Nelson, Dann Penn, Sonny Landreth, Neil Young, Ben Keith and many others make contributions to this CD.

And it’s fantastic. The star power never outshines Charles’ ability to write a simple song that resonates like an earthquake. Like his compatriot Gulf Coaster Tony Joe White (he of Polk Salad Annie and Steamy Windows fame) Charles moves to his own drummer and I am just glad to be allowed to live on this earth at the same time Charles does. I will probably never meet him, see him, or interview him but his music has touched my life and made it better in ways only few have.

If you can, search out this man’s simple music (Stony Plain Records out of Canada is a good place to start – Google them) and see if it doesn’t move you the same way. It’s out there and may be hard to find but the best things in life are never easy to acquire.

Get working.

The Music Nerd knows…..

The Return of Noel Coward

    Hey!  We did have some fun awhile back
playing Virtual Word Association with all of Johnny Dowd’s latest songs,
didn’t we?
so,   Wanna do it again
with none other than Lane Steinberg’s new ones??
Good!
Here we go then…..

 

1. PREAMBLE…..In the words of George Gershwin’s Ghost…..
 
2. BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN…..Zappa’s Grand Wazoo rides shotgun down Mr. Jones’ Highway Revisited on the (Thanks for the) Milk Train.

3. FACE DOWN…..The Association sound asleep with The Turtles’ Umbassa Dragon.   

4. AWAY…..SMiLE out-takes somehow get spliced into the very Quiet Beatle’s Wonderwall score.
 
5. GAIN LUSTER…..Row Row Row your Boat gently off the cliff.

6. JERICHAIO…..We’re stuck between channels…

7. YAM YAM…..Jandek programs his very first Yamaha PSR-293.

8. LET’S TOUCH…..the Tan Sleeve most fashionably frayed!

9. SOMETHING IS WAITING FOR SOMEONE…..Todd the Runt returns…                without (fortunately!) that New Car smell.

10. CUTLETS…..Don’t Firewall the Spam!!

11. YOU’LL NEVER FIND A WAY TO GET ME TO WORK…..on time.

12. BARE WALLS…..barely…

13. EYE FOR THE LADIES…..with yer fusion banjo on m’knee!

14. SPRING BREAK…..Velvet Fog Gone Wild !!

15. SLIGHT GAIN…..merrily merrily merrily merrilee rush

16. BEAUTIFUL DAY, TAKE ME AWAY…..Neil Diamond helps The Rock Opera 
meet The Rael World at last.

17. ONE MAN CRIME WAVE…..Book ‘em Lane, oh!

18. THE FIRST TO LEARN…..are always the last to know, yessir.

19. CONCRETE VACATION…..now, why couldn’t all of Ray Davies’ new one            sound just like this?!!

20. POSTSCRIPT…..”Rhapsody” no longer blue, man.